Lincoln’s Log 6-20-2021

Common Ground and Creating Community

For whoever is not against us is for us.

Mark 9:40

Are you tired of the polarization and divisiveness in society? Our faith calls us to be engaged in the world around us, but how do we do that in a productive way? Do you want strategies to engage in dialogue with others online or in person, even about “taboo topics” like politics, race, religion?

St. Thomas More is a member of Common Ground Fox Cities which is launching the “Golden Rule Project.” This initiative seeks to equip individuals within the Fox Valley community with practices that foster dialogue, trust, and positive relationships. In this time of division, the Golden Rule Project strives to move the needle of our society – away from polarization and demonization of the Other, and toward authentic relationships that celebrate differences while working toward community.

One of the primary ways we build a healthier community is through listening to one another and sharing our story. On the last Thursday of each month, Common Ground Fox Cities is hosting a series of community conversations which will empower and equip you to do just that: listen and share. These dialogues can be transformative encounters where we discover that “whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk. 9:40) and that we can live together.

The next Community Conversation is Thursday, June 24 at 7 pm. This virtual event, called Popping the Bubble: Creating Community Across the COVID Chasm will be a place to renew the work of creating community. I will be serving as one of the trained facilitators for this dialogue and I would encourage you to join in this conversation!

You can register and find more information at commongroundfoxcities.org

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Postcards from beyond.

Postcards from beyond. That is how Eknath Easwaran describes the sacred texts of India. It would also be a fitting description of this collection of writings of Abhishiktananda.

Born in France and trained in the French Benedictine monasticism of the pre-Vatican II era, Henri le Saux (1910-1973), who became Abhishiktananda, traveled to India and immersed himself in Hinduism.

Reading the story of Abhishiktananda’s life that begins this volume reveals a man who was exceptionally passionate and sensitive.

A monk cannot accept mediocrity; only extremes are appropriate for him (45).

He loved everything good, true, and beautiful and was willing to hold the tension that this love required. Instead of solving these tensions superficially and being satisfied with that, Abhishiktananda allowed this tension to drive him deeper into his own soul. It was the inner conflicts and tensions that shaped this man. It was the tension of loving the other, in this case another religious tradition, that drove Abhishiktananda’s spirit.

All of the writings in this collection are, at least in the broad sense, autobiographical. Abhishiktananda was concerned with experience, not theory.

All notions are burned in the fire of experience (198).

These writings are rooted in his own mystical journey, a journey which is often difficult and dangerous.

Several key themes emerge in the writings. The first, already mentioned, is Abhishiktananda’s focus on experience. He is not primarily concerned about conceptual understanding but a meeting of Hinduism and Christianity at the level of being or experience. Of the conceptual tools that Abhishiktananda uses to explore this meeting, the Christian mystery of the Trinity and the Paschal mystery are central. These concepts are brought into dialogue with the Hindu concept of Advaita (non-duality) and Saccidananda (from Sat = Being, Cit = Consciousness, Ananda = Bliss). Christ is brought into conversation with the Hindu concept of Guru where Christ is described as the Sad-Guru (true guru) and the church is described as his body. The tension between East and West is also discussed with India and the East representing the “Within” and Abhishiktananda counseling that the West needs to embrace the gift of interiority that India offers, but that it can only be accepted on its own terms. There is also a beautiful discussion of inculturation in a letter that Abhishiktananda writes to would-be missionaries to India. As you can see, this book covers a lot of ground!

A few notes on the structure of the book… The book is a little over 200 pages and divided into nine chapters: 1) Benedictine Monk, 2) Advaita, 3) East-West, 4) Immersion in Hinduism, 5) The Life of the Hermit, 6) Christianity, 7) God, 8) Prayer, and 9) Awakening. The writings are roughly chronological so one gets the idea of the development of Abhishiktananda’s thought. No selection is more than a few pages long and a few or only a sentence. The average selection is about a page in length. Selections are drawn both from Abhishiktananda’s published works and from his letters. There is a brief glossary of Sanskrit terms at the beginning of the book.

The book is certainly worth reading. The selections provide a lot of material for reflection and perhaps even prayer. It is obvious that Abhishiktananda was a pioneer in inter-religious dialogue. His insights shed new light on familiar Christian teachings and invite deeper exploration. Some Christians may be put off by Abhishiktananda”s approach which relativizes Christian dogma and doctrine. Abhishiktananda himself struggled with that fact. In the end, he attempts to remain faithful to his experience.

One who knows several mental (or religious or spiritual) languages is incapable of absolutizing any formulations whatever — of the gospel, of the Upanishads, of Buddhism, etc. He can only bear witness to an experience — about which he can only stammer (205).

This stammering witness to the truth of his experience has a lot to teach us.